I have an announcement to make! This Sunday, I will be wearing pants . . . sweat pants to be exact. Because just over one week ago, I used the incredible gift of my female body to give birth to a new little life. And this body of mine is now nurturing and comforting that little girl, as well as healing a bit more. If I hadn’t given birth by now, I would be crying for it to be over already for one thing. But, I would also be attending church - wearing as nice a skirt or dress as I could fit my big pregnant belly in to, with a little extra make-up, some pearls, and uncomfortably attractive shoes – the usual extra mile up from my casual week day garb.
Who cares what I would have worn to church anyways though, right? Who really cares what anyone wears to church? If you are wearing your best to church, and you know it, you can feel comfortable knowing that you did your part to respect the sacred occasion of renewing your baptismal covenants with Heavenly Father as you take the Sacrament.
I’m talking about this whole church attire thing for only one reason:
There is a small movement going on among some in the Mormon community that has caught some national attention. Some Mormon feminists have declared this Sunday, December 16th as, “Wear Pants to Church Day.” They are doing it to bring attention to the so called gender inequality problem in our church which they believe is evident in our social and cultural practices as well as church policy and doctrine. To them, this is about much more than pants.
Regarding this event, I got a message from a friend earnestly requesting I respond to the madness that has erupted from all of this. So, not because I care so much what others do or wear – but for the sanity of my dear friend and perhaps some of my like-minded blog-readers, THIS POST IS FOR YOU! :)
The way I see it, wearing dress pants to church on Sunday is the perfect visual metaphor for how many pants-wearing Mormon feminists view “gender inequality” in the gospel: it is simply a non-issue.
Before I really delve, I’ll make one point. Are there jerks, hypocrites, chauvinists, and imperfect people (Hehe!) who are Mormon? Absolutely! In fact, I remember the first time I felt truly discriminated against because of my gender was at a ward Christmas party. We sat at a table. Two men we sat next to were discussing politics – one area of great interest in my life. I joined in the conversation with an educated comment. And I’ll never forget how they looked at me. They were both dumbfounded it seemed that I would offer anything. Then they both shifted their gazes away from me and pretended as if I had said nothing at all. This dinner scene could have been easily re-dubbed with our conversation - except for the husband escorting me out due to embarrassment part:
Squire was as shocked as I was at their response. It was clear that their treatment of me was not just a figment of my imagination. But, I didn’t chalk that experience up to a social or cultural flaw that was integral to my faith – I just saw them as a couple of guys who were being jerks in that instance. There are jerks, hypocrites, and chauvinists – in and out of every faith. There are simply humans everywhere, and everywhere humans will be imperfect.
Some though, take interactions like these with people who are members of our faith, as well as some church policies and project them out as examples of the fruit of imperfect doctrines. I believe that by and large, the need some feel to protest inequality in our church reflects a simple misunderstanding of the priesthood and how it really works in our faith. I love this blog post’s discussion on that topic. It has been a favorite of mine for quite some time.
Additionally, their feeling a need to protest – assuming they are trying to send a message to leadership for change in policy or doctrine – seems to me quite silly as a practicing member of my faith, as we believe our church’s doctrines and application of church policy are implemented by those in positions of authority who receive the revelation on those matters directly from God, rather than the winds and wails of social pressure.
So, in lieu of all of that and in closing, I want to share an excerpt from one of my favorite LDS books. It is called, Yearning for the Living God. It is by F. Enzio Busche, an emeritus member of the first quorum on the Seventy. This experience he shares is one that touched my heart at a time when I was personally pondering the place, importance, and role of women in the gospel. And this story gave so much peace to my heart. I believe every word of it to be true.
Here is what Elder Busche wrote:
“One day, not long after I had begun serving in the temple, I met a woman in the American military service who came for her own endowment. She was accompanied by some sisters from her ward, as well as a priesthood leader. As Sister Busche and I began teaching her about the temple, I felt that she had a somewhat unsettled spirit and saw a little of that in the sisters who were with her, who were all officers in the military. When the priesthood leader inquired as to when I thought the Church would receive revelation giving the priesthood to women, I was at first so shocked that I felt a strong desire to give a stern response and even question his worthiness to be in the temple.
However, as I momentarily withheld my answer and sought guidance from the Spirit, I was witness to something most remarkable. A calmness from someplace else entered my heart, and I heard myself saying things that were somewhat new to me. As I remember, my remarks, in an abbreviated form, were approximately as follows:
The priesthood is neither male nor female, although it has a male part and a female part. Through the eternal bond of marriage, built on the divine gift of love, the priesthood becomes complete. The roles of the two parts are, of course, vastly different.
Heavenly Father has given the female the role of bringing new life to this world. She does so in a physical dimension – by nurturing, tutoring, training, and teaching – and in the wearing of the very eternal virtues of chastity, loyalty, and wholesomeness, which are essential for the very existence of humankind. Our Heavenly Father has given the male the role of providing, protecting and admiring. Male and female are in many ways mysteriously different and, because of that, there is a natural desire to love one another in harmony with the divine laws as they have been reestablished by the restoration of the gospel.
The best way to gain an understanding of the male and female part of the priesthood is to be reminded of a tree. As we look at a tree, it appears to be complete with its trunk, branches, leaves and blossoms; but we know that another equally important part of the tree is invisible. The roots – which, quite unseen, lie deeply embedded in the soil – are constantly nourishing and strengthening the visible parts of the tree. The roots do not argue with the trunk. The both enjoy oneness.
The temple is the Lord’s essential instrument used to reestablish a true understanding of the male and female parts of the priesthood. In the temple, both men and women wear the robe of the priesthood and are given the garments of the priesthood. Righteous men and women learn that although women are not physically involved in conducting the affairs of the priesthood, no man can excel in his priesthood callings for long without the blessing and care and guidance of a righteous woman. When we listen very carefully in the temple and learn to understand and accept our male and female roles, we will soon see ourselves in our own limitations. Those who concentrate their efforts in developing the purposes and virtues of their own gender will build tender bonding bridges between men and women on the basis of mutual respect and admiration, inspired by the divine miraculous power of love. A society that fails to accept the eternal concept of this godly design must pay an unbearable price of confusion of the individual, which can, potentially lead to chaos, destruction, and the unhappiness of the soul.
As I spoke, I felt a warm, comforting spirit come over me – a stimulating vibrancy that filled my whole being with light and joy. I witnessed how that same spirit came over the listeners. Their hearts became enlightened and their attitudes became mild and receptive. As I continued my remarks, I observed that they had tears in their eyes. The priesthood leader was so embarrassed that he could not find enough words of regret and apology. Deeply touched and lightened by inner understanding, they were ready to participate in the additional experiences of their temple visit.” (F. Enzio Busche’s, Yearning for the Living God, pgs.214-216)
So tell me, what will/did you wear to church this Sunday? ;)